Counseling Center

Alcohol Tolerance

What is tolerance?

A person with tolerance requires a higher BAC than a nontolerant person to experience some of the same effects.  Basically, tolerance means that your body is suppressing its normal responses to toxins.  So you’re less likely to vomit, pass out, etc.

  • Ability to stand, walk, speak without slurring, etc may change with tolerance.
  • Reaction time and peripheral vision do not improve with tolerance.
  • BAC and the rate at which you metabolize alcohol do not change with tolerance.

Tolerance is actually not a good goal.  Here’s why:

  • Physical damage and impairment are occurring without your knowledge.  With tolerance, you feel less drunk, so you’re less able to accurately judge your ability to function.  For example, you may think you’re okay to drive, even though your reaction time and vision are impaired.
  • Your body no longer protects you the way it is meant to – since you’re less likely to vomit or pass out, you may reach even higher, more toxic BAC levels.
  • When you develop tolerance, you can no longer experience the “buzz” – you don’t get the same stimulant effects at low doses.
  • It’s expensive – since you don’t feel the effects as quickly, you end up buying more drinks.
  • Tolerance and withdrawal are two symptoms of an Alcohol Use Disorder-- if you’re building your tolerance, you’re moving toward physical addiction.

Good news – you can bring your tolerance back down. 

Just go for a significant amount of time without drinking.  For the majority of students, a few weeks ought to have a significant effect.  Drinking less may bring tolerance down very slowly, but it’s not all that effective – a period of abstinence works better.

*Disclaimer: This information is meant to provide education about substance use. The content of this workshop is not meant to replace therapy and is not considered mental health treatment. If you are in crisis or find yourself needing more support please call the UToledo Counseling Center at 419-530-2426 or dial 9-1-1 if it is an emergency.


Last Updated: 6/27/22